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Open Access (free)
Design and material culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s–80s
Author: Yulia Karpova

The major part of this book project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 700913.

This book is about two distinct but related professional cultures in late Soviet Russia that were concerned with material objects: industrial design and decorative art. The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s is broadly recognised to have been Russia’s first truly original contribution to world culture. In contrast, Soviet design of the post-war period is often dismissed as hackwork and plagiarism that resulted in a shabby world of commodities. This book identifies the second historical attempt at creating a powerful alternative to capitalist commodities in the Cold War era. It offers a new perspective on the history of Soviet material culture by focusing on the notion of the ‘comradely object’ as an agent of progressive social relations that state-sponsored Soviet design inherited from the avant-garde. It introduces a shared history of domestic objects, handmade as well as machine-made, mass-produced as well as unique, utilitarian as well as challenging the conventional notion of utility. Situated at the intersection of intellectual history, social history and material culture studies, this book elucidates the complexities and contradictions of Soviet design that echoed international tendencies of the late twentieth century. The book is addressed to design historians, art historians, scholars of material culture, historians of Russia and the USSR, as well as museum and gallery curators, artists and designers, and the broader public interested in modern aesthetics, art and design, and/or the legacy of socialist regimes.

Open Access (free)
Janet Wolff

course it doesn’t matter. But I hoped to get in touch one day, and compare memories. This didn’t ever happen. Tim Guest’s second book, Second Lives, was published in 2007. It is an ethnographic study (if this isn’t a contradiction) of virtual communities and of the entrepreneurs who created those worlds, and it too was very well received by critics and readers. Later, some noticed the continuities between the two books, the recurring damage, perhaps the impossibility of full recovery. Guest himself (it seems a little strange not to call him Tim) hints at it, without

in Austerity baby
Yulia Karpova

mass-produced forms and their detachment from habitual functions. As long as an artist is honest in his or her choices, the forms of objects are no longer required to ‘honestly’ express functions. For example, in spite of its functional obsolescence, a spinning wheel does not become an ethnographic item, but an ‘abstract’ decorative object, a tool of taste distinction in the modern world of prefabricated flats. Purely decorative objects were rehabilitated, and beauty was emancipated from the dictates of utility. A play of glass Although neodecorativism spanned work

in Comradely objects